Grazers’ Dining Guide to the NC Sandhills
Story by Michael J. Solender
Sponsored by North Carolina’s Pinehurst and Southern Pines
Visitors to North Carolina’s Pinehurst and Southern Pines region will find culinary options outnumber even golf courses. Whether you come to shop, explore, adventure, or golf, you’ll find the dining and libations options are as varied and impressive as the area’s storied courses.
Start the day out right at these breakfast spots:
Betsy’s Crepes – Southern Pines – Betsy Markey has fueled up visitors for more than a decade from this iconic breakfast spot, located in the heart of downtown Southern Pines. Savory or sweet, Betsy’s has ethereal crepes that include whole wheat, buckwheat, Hungarian, or gluten-free options. The blintz, with softened sweet cream cheese and raspberry sauce, is eye opening. Prefer savory? Choose ‘Le Greco,’ with ham, artichokes, and feta cheese. Looking to spice it up? The huevos rancheros crepe is filled with black beans, cheddar, salsa, jalapeños, and eggs to give your morning some zip. Lunch is on tap here, too, as well as weekend brunch.
Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery – Aberdeen – Contemporary Southern comfort food is the featured fare at Mason’s where Chef/Owner Brian Hainley, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America, serves traditional regional favorites with an updated twist. Early morning guests are tempted with scratch-made buttermilk biscuits and gravy, served as a “flight” where each split biscuit is topped with a different gravy to sample. Locals love the ‘Train Wreck,’ that serves Nashville hot chicken on a split biscuit with cheese, smoky bacon, and sausage gravy. Lunch is served here, too: Look for the fried green tomato BLT and the signature ‘Bubba Burger,’ a three-napkin sandwich with the works including homemade pimento cheese.
Casual Lunch, Take Aways & Snacks
Pack a lunch for the road or linger over casual lunch fare at these diners, delis, and grills—whether you crave sandwiches, wraps, burgers, snacks, and suds.
Dewberry Deli – Cameron – This old-timey lunch spot and soda fountain is a throwback to small town Americana. Located in The Old Hardware Building in historic downtown Cameron, this menu is loaded with salads, burgers, sandwiches, and specials like the ‘Chicken Coop,’ which serves chicken breast marinated in Italian seasonings over fresh lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, green peppers, mushrooms, and melted cheddar cheese, drizzled with Italian dressing and paired with warm rolls. Save room for fountain specials like milkshakes and the popular orange freeze (a classic orange sherbet shake with secret fountain flavors and milk).
Pik-n-Pig – Carthage – With some of the best ‘que in the Carolinas, Pik-n-Pig proudly serves up “three generations of love, sweat and tears all on one plate.” Low and slow smoking over hickory and all-natural charcoal make for the smokiest, tastiest, and most satisfying BBQ for miles. Ribs, barbecued chicken and, of course, pork shoulder make Pik-n-Pig a must-stop while visiting the area. The BBQ sundae, which has been served at the NC State Fair for years, layers pulled pork, baked beans, and coleslaw in a Mason jar for some pig heaven.
The Railroad Deli – Vass – Clubs, subs, pitas, and stuffed croissants are only half the equation at this super-friendly, carry-out sandwich spot. The pulled-pork barbecue is legendary and the burgers and dogs will tide over the hungriest appetites.
Pubs, Taverns & Bars
Linger over a cold one at these pub-and-grub spots:
Drum & Quill – Pinehurst – “The ‘Drum’ represents famous golf writer Bob Drum, and the ‘Quill’ represents the pen that he used to immortalize Arnold Palmer as they founded Golf’s Professional Grand Slam,” say the founders of this quintessential American tavern, a favorite in the village of Pinehurst. Tip back a Guinness or a local Southern Pines Brewing Co.’s Texas Rig IPA, while the days’ scores are tallied up. You’ll find lots of shareable plates here to nibble on including pulled pork nachos and a pimento cheese tray with wontons for dunking. The Angus burgers are tops, as are the tacos—favorite tacos include blackened mahi and Korean beef, both of which sing with flavor.
Maxie’s Grill & Tap Room – Pinehurst – Known for its inspiring wings, Maxie’s takes bar food to soaring heights with favorites like loaded potato wedges, mozzarella sticks, sweet potato fries with honey butter, and cheesy quesadillas. The grilled reuben is special, too. The “Cheers” vibe is for real, so settle in have a cold one in this cozy neighborhood joint.
The Bell Tree – Southern Pines – Named one of America’s great bourbon bars with an astounding selection, The Bell Tree is a true classic ‘tavern of yester-year’ with polished hardwood floors, an exposed brick wall, a high-top dark wooden bar, and ornamental chestnut-colored ceilings all contributing to an old-school feel and ambiance. Cocktails are an art form here plus there’s a fine selection of local brews and other tasty libations. Settle in for a post-round meal as the kitchen serves fare with flair including Finnegan’s fish & chips, Olivia’s ‘Southern charm’ shrimp & grits, and Chandler’s smoked chicken.
Workshop Tavern – Aberdeen – A newcomer to the culinary scene, Workshop Tavern is garnering rave reviews for its fresh salads, sandwiches, and signature cocktails—blackberry mezcal mule anyone? Specials to look for include the tasty prime rib dinners with Asiago potatoes and jumbo asparagus, as well as the seared ahi tuna.
Getting away to the NC Sandhills is reason to celebrate. These local hotspots allow for settling in with style and enjoying the day’s victories and memories.
Full Moon Oyster Bar – Southern Pines – Good shots take on an entirely new meaning here where oyster “shooters” rule. Start with ‘Moon Rockers,’ oysters baked on the half shell and stuffed with creamy spinach (Rockefeller never had it so good!) Graduate to fresh tidewater sea scallops, seasoned and steamed to perfection, or try the Lowcountry shrimp boil—be sure to ask for extra napkins.
Ironwood – Southern Pines – A visually-stunning contemporary art-infused dining room is complimented by seasonal dining with the freshest seafood, locally farmed produce, and deft chef’s touch at this local stalwart. Follow the classic wedge salad with house-made blue cheese dressing with a dynamite tomahawk pork chop, hand-cut ribeye, or lump crab cakes—a hole in one to be sure.
SoPies – Southern Pines – A true slice of New York here in the Sandhills, SoPies NY-style pizzeria has some of the best pizza in the region. ‘Nonna’s’ is just like your own grandma would make if she were Italian: a thin crusted Sicilian pie with garlic butter, mozzarella cheese, and homemade marinara. Calzones, subs, and white pies are all on the menu at this authentic Italian haunt. Bellisimo!
Wherever you roam while visiting the North Carolina Sandhills, you’ll find several exciting culinary options within an easy drive. And unlike the game of golf, with Moore County dining, you’ll never miss a shot.
Michael J. Solender
Charlotte, North Carolina’s Michael J. Solender has been captivated by great storytelling since his youth. He now writes about food, golf, travel, arts, and curious people. His writing has been featured in Southern Living, Carolinas Golf Magazine, Carolina Mountain Life, Charlotte Observer, Raleigh News & Observer, Lake Norman Magazine, and others. His personal essays explore the personalities, back stories, and character behind destinations. Learn more about Michael and follow him on Twitter @MJSolender.